THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD
Disclaimer: Black Lagoon and its characters © Rei Hiroe
Rating: M for mature
Note: Would like to acknowledge unkeptsecret for letting me work off the scene described in Sweet Attack and recognize her assistance in making this story far better than anything I could have done on my own. Thank you!
Chapter 1: Ain't No Use Singing the Blues
"You know what I really enjoy, Dutch?" said Chang amiably, adjusting his trademark white silk scarf. "A good cup of coffee. And I have to admit, this is pretty good."
The coffee was cold, and hours old. I blinked from behind the safety of the sunglasses as Chang drained the cup in one swallow. The evening sun striped him like a tiger through the slats of the shades. You didn't hurry Mr. Chang; you waited for the man to tell you what it was going to be.
Chang leaned back against the thin cushions of the ratty couch and threw his line in. "I hear you're looking for talent?"
"I'm always in the market for talent, Chang-san," I said evenly, taking the bait. "But a company needs regular work to keep good employees."
Chang laughed. "Point taken. I knew that I was right about you."
I knew then. The hook had been set.
Chang stood up. He ambled over to the window and looked out between the slats. His hands buried deep in the pockets of his dark trench-coat. It didn't take a genius to realize that I was supposed to follow, so I got up and joined him.
His mooks milled about the dock by the black limousine, smoking and talking. All except the girl. She stood apart from the men, the shadow stretching from her feet as lean and sharp as she was. Maybe still in her teens, maybe starting twenty, who knew. A small backpack clutched in one hand. Head turned away, as if she was staring out on the mirror of the city bay. I felt my skin prickle all the way up to the base of my skull. I knew this one.
Chang paused. Finally he spoke, almost in a whisper as if he was afraid the girl could somehow hear. "I think she would do well in the Lagoon's line of work. I'll rent the back apartment from you for her. Six months' rent, up front."
I knew how to keep my opinions to myself, but I had to raise an eyebrow at that.
"Hold up," I protested. "Pardon my old-fashioned ways, but I need a heavy, not a girl."
Chang smiled. "Row. Do you remember Row Kallak? Malaysian? Quick on the trigger and the temper?"
"I didn't know he was in the past tense," I said. "My man Riff will be happy to hear he's departed. How'd it happen?"
Chang's smile got wider. He looked at his watch, the kind of look that meant time was up. "Row got too heavy."
I didn't get a chance to say anything else. The phone was ringing.
Chang made for the door, "I call her Two Hands. Ask her why."
As soon as Chang was gone down the metal stairs, Otis ghosted out from the back. He made for the window. As wide as I was big, he moved on dancer's feet. He bent the slat with his little finger, the sole remaining digit on his right hand and peered out. Otis kept quiet as I spoke on the phone to the Russian.
The call was short; the woman on the other end dictated without niceties, the voice clear and concise through the hisses and clicks. The details would be arranged in person by intermediaries. The big bosses such as Balalaika didn't usually leave themselves open to eavesdropping. This piece of business was too well timed with Chang's departure to be accidental.
Otis fidgeted while I handled the call. Finally he spoke, his deep voice an octave higher with curiosity when I hung up the phone. "Where does Chang get off saddling us with this bitch? We don't work for him. Who was on the phone?"
I shrugged, "For the same reason the Wa family insisted we take Riff. What's she doing out there?"
Otis pushed his face against the slats. "Let's see... Chang said something to the bitch before he drove off, and she turned white as a pastry. She's just sorta standing there now."
"Best we can hope for is she'll walk away," I said without any conviction.
"Naw, it's better'n that," giggled Otis, his attention wholly back on her. "We're getting a strip tease. Whatta body. Damn, listen to that mouth...Hey, who was on the phone?"
I looked out. Chang had fixed the girl up in the uniform black and white of the 14K. Now the slacks and shirt were drifting off in the oily eddies as the tide went out . Twin splashes for the shoes followed. The cursing was audible.
"Looks like a Chink, but sounds Brooklyn," observed Otis. "What the fuck's up with that? You got anything on this one?"
"A little," I replied. "But I don't give a damn where she came from. What matters now is where we're going..."
"You didn't say who was on the phone," Otis asked for the third time with a sideways glance.
"No, I didn't."
"Oh, Dutchie, Dutchie," said 'Emily' Wa with a pout. "What's the bullshit about Chang dropping some prison slut off at your dock?"
She sat down beside me on the bed and let the silk robe slide to her waist. She had almond skin and sloe-eyes I put a hand in the thick fine hair, smoother than the silk robe and pulled her down beside me. She was Emily to me because I couldn't pronounce her real name.
"Appears you already know all about the new hire," I said. Riff had already spread the news. She rested her head on my chest and sniffed audibly through her flared nostrils. The room smelled of sandalwood and jasmine from the smoldering incense sticks. Damn unpleasant stuff clung to the humid air. "I still have to interview her though. See if she's all she's advertised to be."
"Is she beautiful?" she asked. A trace of jealousy coarsened the words.
"No class," I said. No point telling Emily the girl was a hard-body with legs a track-star would envy. "And young enough to be my daughter, so she's not going to be the latest flavor. Otis and Riff, though-- they're definitely looking to get in her pants."
"Heh," her petite little brow wrinkled. "You can't be serious. You aren't planning on keeping the creature. She's Chang's little piece of foolishness. Rumor has it he hauled her sorry little ass out of the Big Tiger and spent more than half a year turning her into a gunslinger, like something out of a John Woo movie."
"Fuck!" I exclaimed. That was news to me. What a price to pay for keeping your mouth shut over a Triad hit. They called Bang Kwang Maximum Prison the Big Tiger because the place eats you up. "I didn't know they sent women there. Place is a pisshole!"
She poked me in the ribs, "You're being a big bad, black farang. Yes, you are. You're keeping a story from me. I love stories, Dutchie. Tell me a story."
"Not much to tell," I said with a ghost of a smile. "Chang's 'little piece of foolishness' is an American runaway. She showed up on my doorstep a few years back – so I set her up at a dive shop and think the business is over. She fucks it up and next thing I know she's floundering about the harbor waving sea cucumbers at the fishermen!"
"Goes from bad to worse," I continued as Emily's head slid down my torso. "Tries to run with the Thai street kids but she's too old and doesn't speak the language. Finally she breaks down and tries to get a job at Jackpot's place."
"I knew it," exclaimed Emily triumphantly, working the distance with her tongue. "She's a whore."
"She never got the chance," I avoided the obvious and rebutted the statement. "Jackpot botched it up all ways to the nines, told me the story later. Tried sweet talking the girl down into that dungeon setup cause the girl struck him as a natural dominatrix. The instant she saw all the gear the girl went full bore ballistic, pulled a gun on him and bolted. Problem is, she bolted right into a crime scene out on the street and got arrested. End of story."
"We should check out Jackpot's dungeon," said Emily looking up with an avid gleam. "He's a sweet one, that Rowan."
"Hey baby, I'm not into that shit," I said lighting up a cigarette and blew out a cloud of smoke in a steady stream. The nicotine smell cut right through the cloying incense. "A man and a women got to respect each other, even when it's horizontal."
"You're such a bullshitter of a lover," grumbled Emily. "You're in Mickey Wa's bedroom banging Mickey Wa's wife and you're talking about respect? And you're pumping me more for information than for love. I should call the guards."
"Maybe if Mickey Wa kept his woman happy, maybe said woman wouldn't be making all sorts of nasty with me," I observed idly. "We both know what he's up to when he visits Pat Pong with his pretty boy lackey, the amazing Chin."
"Tell me one thing," said Emily with a desperate, but empty snarl. "Just tell me that bastard Chang didn't offer the Black Lagoon a deal if you'd hire that girl. You work for us, Dutchie! You work for the Wa Family! Fuckin' Chang and those bastards in Hong Kong are letting that filthy fried bitch of a Russian take our territory. We were here first! We won't be run off."
"Chang didn't offer me a deal," I said. "The Black Lagoon Trading Company has no agreement with the 14K. Now, Emily, I'm sick of talking about business. Let's make like mimes."
Emily was a lousy mime.